This website was last updated on December 23rd 2016. Although I have tried hard to ensure that all facts are correct, any mistakes or omissions are my own responsibility. Please let me know if you spot anything!
Internment camps of South West France 1939-1944
An opportunity to share knowledge and unlock the past.
Where possible, children were removed from the internment camps by the aid organisations and installed in various suitable centres such as unused hotels, empty chateaux, and other venues which had become available. It is important to understand that this was done with the approval of the authorities, both at departmental and state (Vichy) level. This had the advantage of relieving the authorities of the responsibility of housing, feeding and caring for the children, as the aid agencies would take on these tasks. This ensured that the children were better fed and clothed, and spared the rigours of life in the camps. However, space in the colonies was not unlimited, and of course, there was no such provision for the parents. They had to sign documents relinquishing all rights and responsibilities over their children.
In 1942, when the operation to assemble all Jewish and some other internees in centres for deportation was rolled out, the caring agencies had to resort to various strategems to hide the children in their care, or to change their identities so that they were protected from deportation. Naturally, these methods were not recorded in the files that have survived, so that knowing exactly how children were rescued remains a mystery in many cases. There are few books or diaries written by these workers, and even after the war they preferred to remain silent. Maybe someone reading this may have a story they would be willing to share with others?
A great deal of work was done by the Jewish organisation OSE. To read about this and to find further leads (in French) click here.
A few of the many colonies are explored in some detail on the following pages. Please click on the buttons below to discover more about these.